Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Weekend In Bruges

Because I am incapable of sitting still, I decided to celebrate my one month anniversary in Europe by taking a trip to Bruges, Belgium.  A lovely sunny weekend in a town so lovely that if Disney had built it we’d all hate it and claim it’s unrealistic-

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Photo: Dwingeloo Radio Observatory

Snapped on my first trip outside Amsterdam in the Netherlands, this is Dwingeloo Radio Observatory.  Constructed in the 1950s, it has a diameter of 25 meters which at the time made it the largest radio telescope in the world.  These days it’s no longer used for research and instead just by amateur radio enthusiasts, but it’s still located right by ASTRON, the headquarters for astronomy research in the Netherlands near the village of Dwingeloo.

Honestly I will be out at ASTRON so many times over the next few years I don’t feel obliged to give a full tour yet (already scheduled to go out twice next month, once for a full week!), but I thought it was a rather nice bit of scientific history to find hiding in a remote corner of Holland.

Dutch Culture Shock

Whenever you move to a new country it turns out many people are rather curious about the state of your culture shock.  Some have even asked me if I have much thanks to my travel/ Hungarian background, and the answer is of course a few things have popped up though I’m not going to be weirded out by, say, the existence of trams or that the plugs are different.  I mean I wanted to move here because it would be different!

That said, here are a few things that I’ve noticed are rather different in the Netherlands- and a few that actually I expected to be problems that really aren’t… Continue reading

Settling Into Amsterdam Life

Things are coming along- a few days ago I moved into an incredibly lovely apartment in Amsterdam!  And while there are a few hundred too many folks stopping by this blog daily to allow for a full tour of the premises, this is literally the view of the canal when I step out onto my tiny balcony-
When not stopping to check after each rain squall whether that low-lying boat with the blue tarp has sunk yet (there are a surprising number of sunk and presumed abandoned boats in the Amsterdam canals) I am enchanted and can’t stop admiring the view.  Isn’t it exactly what you imagine a view from an Amsterdam apartment to look like?  Not to mention there’s always something going on on the water, from tourist boats to pleasure boats to ducks and gulls and even swans.

I should also mention that said little balcony with an amazing view also has a now-barren flag pole, so I was getting all excited to fly a Dutch flag until I was told it’s actually illegal to fly one if you’re a private citizen on all but 5 days of the year for reasons I cannot begin to fathom!  I really can’t say I’ve ever heard of such a rule before in any country…

Anyway, this is another shot taken just a little bit down the road from me which I include here because it contains the elaborate spire of Westerkerk (literally, “the Western church”) which is the largest Protestant church in the Netherlands and even where the current Queen Beatrix was married- Rembrandt was buried here too, though no one’s entirely certain where.  You can’t quite see it from my apartment as there is a tree in the way (though that will likely change come winter) but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear it- the clock tower chimes every 15 minutes without fail, and you can hear it from anywhere in this part of the city.

The thing is you probably knew about the Westerkerk chimes but realize it- the exact same chimes today are the ones Anne Frank mentioned it in her diary as she hid a stone’s throw from the church.  The Anne Frank House is just a few blocks from mine actually and Westerkerk still plays the exact same chimes today, so it’s quite something to ponder how we’re neighbors in three dimensions albeit not in the fourth.And if an address isn’t enough I now have what most will tell you really qualifies you for living in the Netherlands- a proper Dutch bicycle!  I got mine at the market and it’s known as an oma fiets, literally “grandma’s bicycle,” which is just the name of the style and not an insult before you guys get ideas about my taste. *wink* The thing that has struck everyone about the bicycle is its color- virtually all bicycles in Holland are black so I opted to pay a few extra Euro for one I could find in a crowd.  Still need a name but I’m trying to not get terribly attached- despite heavy-duty locks the Dutch joke that “all bikes are really rentals” has more than an element of truth to it.

I should also mention it’s rather interesting riding a Dutch bike as they’re pedal breaks like a child’s bike in the USA instead of hand ones, and while a single speed isn’t an issue most of the time it does leave some huffing and puffing in some places.  Not to mention the absolute insanity of some of the normal cycling that goes on around here, but that’s probably a story for another day.  The Westerkerk clock is telling me it’s time for bed!